Contrary to popular belief, leadership isn’t always a natural born trait. It’s possible to learn leadership and to become increasingly skilled at leading others in both personal and professional capacities. The flip side of this is that if one is a natural born leader (i.e., they have the traits that are commonly associated with leaders inherent in their personalities), it’s very easy to fall into poor leadership habits.
This can be counterproductive and dangerous. Since the beginning of the year is so often about creating new resolutions, let’s focus some of that energy on quitting the really harmful leadership habits that often arise as the result of using tactics that worked in the past, a general ignorance of how to lead or being placed in a leadership role without proper training.
Bad Leadership Habit 1: Poor Communication
You know the type. One minute, they’re dashing off an email that makes virtually no sense and the next they’re requesting a three-hour phone call to go over a relatively minute project that you’re not even working on. Or they ask you to make something the very highest priority and then tell you to scrap the plan next week, just as you’re finishing your project plan. Seventy percent of small- to mid-size businesses claim that ineffective communication is their primary problem. Poor communication usually stems from poor organization; it can lead to inter-office frustrations, dropped deadlines and missed opportunities. Leaders become micromanagers and bottlenecks abound when this habit goes totally unchecked. According to 360 Solutions, a business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication, which translates to a cost of $528,443 dollars per year. Plainly put, this isn’t a habit you can afford to keep.
Prone to affect: Startup founders, skilled contributors moved into management
Replace with: Better organization. You don’t have to be a naturally organized person to organize your work life so that it works for you AND your employees. There’s no shortage of productivity hacks and note-taking or recording platforms that can help clarify your intentions. The examples listed above stem from poor time management and the erroneous assumption that employees can read minds. Practice by taking great meetings notes and having staff repeat instructions back to you. Reduce communication by email if possible and allow employees with organizational skills to create processes that make it easier for them to do their jobs (even if that’s not the way you’ve always done it).
Bad Leadership Habit 2: Hoarding Knowledge
Do you have a star player on the team? Is she constantly coming up with new and innovative ways of doing things? Does she take initiative instead of waiting around for you to tell her twice? Congratulations, you’ve hired and trained this valuable employee well. So why are you so threatened? Some leaders fall into the trap of thinking like a line worker who doesn’t want to get passed over for a raise. You’re not in competition with your employees. Yet you feel that if they become better than you at a given task, somehow you won’t be “king of the hill” — so you hoard knowledge in order to keep that star employee in her place. A study from the Academy of Management Journal discovered employees have nothing to gain from hiding their insights from co-workers, and just end up hurting themselves by doing so. Leaders have even more to lose by hoarding knowledge, as this can cause direct reports to become discouraged and disengaged when they find their efforts unappreciated or worse, criticized.
Prone to affect: Middle managers promoted over coworkers, those in performance-based cultures
Replace with: Knowledge sharing. We’ve all heard the platitudes that you should never be the smartest one in the room. What if leaders really began living it? Instead of trying to keep all the interesting knowledge to yourself, leaders should start giving away as much as possible to their employees while seeking out new information. Inexpensive internal tools like Evernote and Yammer are incredible ways to get over your perceived place at the top of the mountain.
Read more at Forbes.